It only figured that a baseball team that has hit 44 home runs this season would use the long ball to propel it to victory again.
And that’s exactly what Doral Academy did Wednesday afternoon as the Firebirds traveled to Flamingo Park in Pembroke Pines and used two early long balls to build a 5-0 lead after an inning-and-a-half and cruised to a 5-2 victory over Pines Charter in a Region 4-7A semifinal that started in the late morning in an effort to beat the bad weather that arrived in the afternoon.
The Doral victory broke down a new barrier as the Firebirds advance the regional finals for the first time in program history and will host either Okeechobee or Stuart Martin County on May 22, with a trip to the state final four in Fort Myers on the line.
“I’m just so happy for these kids and my coaching staff because so much work and so many long hours have gone in to trying to get this program where we want it to be and now we’re very excited to be moving on to the regional finals for the first time,” said Doral coach Ralph Suarez, who saw his team improve to 23-6. “We’re a slugging team that hits a lot of homers and that was huge for us today.”
Suarez watched as his team jumped all over Pines Charter’s Maverick Medina by plating three runs in the top of the first, capped off when Gabriel Gutierrez launched a two-run shot over the left field fence and followed that up with two more runs in the second when Dominic Pitelli hit one out chasing Medina from the game.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play, he hung a curve ball and I turned on it,” Gutierrez said. “We love hitting the ball hard and far and that was big because it got our pitcher a nice lead before he ever walked out on the mound.”
Doral starter Adrian Figueroa indeed enjoyed a three-run lead before he threw his first pitch and threw well, scattering four hits over his five innings, not allowing a run.
“Getting an early lead is the best feeling in the world for a pitcher because it allows you to go out there and just worry about hitting your spots,” Figueroa said. “At this point, it’s all about win and advance, win and advance, and that’s what we want to keep doing. It feels good to make a little history.”
Doral’s Victor Cabrera worked the sixth, before Jorge Perez came in in the seventh, but quickly ran into trouble as the Jaguars (18-10) rallied for two runs.
After Perez hit Pine Charter’s first two batters, putting runners on first and second with no outs, the team’s true closer, Michael Marin came in and struck out Dylan Vega.
But Brandon Andal then drilled an RBI double to the left field fence scoring the first run and putting runners on second and third. Justin Dourvetakis then laced a line drive to the left fielder for a sacrifice fly scoring the second run. Jorge Herrera then came up and flied out to center ending the game.
“Just a phenomenel effort by Adrian [Figueroa] out there today,’’ Suarez said. “He really pounded the strike zone and got it done out there. I only pulled him because we really needed to get some of our other pitchers some work because we’re going to need them as we advance further along. It all comes down to pitching, putting the ball in play, good defense and timely hitting. You do all of that and you’re going to win 90 percent of your ball games and we did that today.”
Miami Beach beats Hialeah
A sloppy first inning became nothing but a distant memory for the Miami Beach baseball team on Wednesday night.
That’s because the Hi-Tides, after falling behind Hialeah 2-0 after one inning and on the strength of a masterful pitching performance by Nolan Santos, settled down and came back to knock off the T-Breds 5-3 in a Region 4-9A semifinal at Alex Fernandez Field.
With weather having been an issue all week, the game was delayed more than two hours but eventually got under way.
The win advances the Beach baseball program into some rarified air – the regional finals, a game it has made it to only once (2001) in the last 44 years. And the challenge will be a big one as the Hi-Tides (15-11) will host tradition-rich Columbus at Flamingo Park on Tuesday, May 22 at 7 p.m.
“It’s a good day for Miami Beach baseball and I’m proud to have brought this tradition back,” said Hi-Tides head coach Juan Cordero who spent eight seasons under Tom Duffin at Monsignor Pace before coming over three years ago to take over the Beach program. “We’re grateful tat these kids are jelling at the right time. We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to and know how tough Hilaeah can be on their field in the postseason so for us to settle down and come back the way we did was tremendous.”
And Cordero probably had his pitcher to thank for most of it as Santos, after giving up two runs in the first inning, the second of which was unearned caused by a dropped fly ball in left field with two outs, dominated Hialeah the rest of the night.
Santos finished with a dozen strikeouts and at one point, from the last two outs in the second inning to the first out in the seventh, retired 15 consecutive batters including a fifth inning where he struck out the side.
“My first inning was a little sloppy but I settled down and everything was really on tonight,” said Santos. “We didn’t panic being down two runs early, I had confidence that we would put some runs on the board and I told my guys just get me a one run lead and I’ll protect it.”
And that’s exactly what happened as Beach got to Hialeah starter Nick Garcia for two runs in the third to tie it, one in the fourth to take the lead and single runs in the sixth and seventh to give Santos some breathing room.
Santos gave up a one-out base hit in the seventh and after recording the second out on a fly ball to center, Cordero came and took the ball from him, bringing in closer Ricardo Garcia.
“Nolan was was amazing out there tonight,” said Cordero. “ His breaking pitch was on point and he was in complete control. His pitch count had reached 100 and we had to keep him under 105 in order for him to be available next week. We had the confidence that Ricardo would come in and get us that final out.”
Which Garcia did but not before Eduardo Brito greeted his first pitch with an RBI single to center field trimming the Beach lead to two. But, with the tying run at the plate, he struck out Brandon Lobaine to end the game.
“That darn Weber!” quipped Cordero jokingly when asked about the challenge of going up against Columbus and coach Joe Weber next week. “A great team, an accomplished program, well-coached so needless to say we will really have our hands full and a huge challenge in front of us. We’ll have to work really hard to get ready and play a perfect game if we want to give ourselves a chance.”